December 17th, 2023

Artist James Niehues in his studio, working on “Breckenridge” a few years ago. Photo courtesy of James Niehues’ website

Renowned artist James Niehues stands as a landmark artist whose brushstrokes capture the essence of adventure and the allure of nature. Niehues has carved a niche for himself in an unconventional yet captivating medium—ski resort maps. Here at Gallery MAR, we are thrilled to introduce collectors to the unparalleled artwork of James Niehues, whose creations not only guide winter sports enthusiasts but also seamlessly blend functionality with aesthetic allure.

James Niehues, “Heavenly 2003-18,” gouache, 29″ x 38″

More than just an artist, James Niehues is a master cartographer who transforms ordinary ski trail maps into immersive, visually stunning masterpieces. Born from a passion for skiing and a love for the outdoors, Niehues’ work goes beyond the utilitarian purpose of trail maps, turning them into vibrant, evocative pieces of art. His meticulous attention to detail, coupled with a profound understanding of terrain and topography, allows him to craft maps that not only guide skiers and snowboarders but also evoke a sense of awe and appreciation for the majestic landscapes they traverse. 

For Niehues, the sketch is more than just a preliminary step; it is the soul of the finished product, representing 50% of the entire artistic endeavor. Each detailed sketch is a meticulous composition derived from a thorough review of aerial and on-site photographs, resort site plans, and considerations for future development. Niehues’ commitment to authenticity and foresight is evident in his practice of leaving space for potential trails or lifts in upcoming resort projects.

James Niehues, “Canyons 2011 V2,” pencil, 27″ x 40″

The ski map paintings, crafted with gouache watercolor on gesso-prepared illustration board, showcase Niehues’s mastery in bringing landscapes to life. The meticulous process involves applying shadows, snow surfaces, and terrain details with an airbrush, followed by hand-painting intricate elements like trees and structures. Chairlifts are incorporated via a light pencil touch. The paintings serve as visual narratives, capturing the evolution of ski resorts over time.

One of the defining features of Niehues‘ artwork is the seamless integration of form and function. Each stroke of his brush serves a dual purpose: providing accurate information about slopes, elevations, and trails while also creating a visual symphony that captures the spirit of the mountains. For collectors, this unique blend of form and function presents an opportunity to own not just a map but a piece of art that resonates with the thrill of winter sports.

James Niehues, “Canyons 2000,” gouache, 16″ x 38.5″

Niehues’ impact on the world of ski resort cartography and winter sports is undeniable. His maps grace the walls of ski lodges, adventure enthusiasts’ homes, and are now available to our Gallery MAR collectors. He is also the only artist inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, a nod to his incredible impact on the sport. The legacy he has built is a testament to the universal appeal of his work, transcending the niche of skiing to speak to the broader human experience of awe, wonder, and connection with the great outdoors.

James Niehues, “Snowbasin 1998 V2,” gouache, 27″ x 39″

Drawing on the influence of black and white landscape photography icon Ansel Adams, Niehues aims to portray the diverse beauty of American mountain iconography. This is evident in his Great American Landscape Project, where he masterfully captures the diversity of the North American Continent. Specifically at this exhibition, his works of both Yosemite and Zion National Park from the Great American Landscape Project will be available.

James Niehues, “Olympic Park 1996,” gouache, 28″ x 30″

As Niehues continues to redefine the boundaries of both ski resort cartography and our great American landscapes, collectors can anticipate acquiring art that invests in a legacy that captures the spirit of adventure and the timeless allure of nature. We are absolutely thrilled to offer our collectors the opportunity to view James Niehues world renowned paintings in his solo exhibition, “Ski Map Originals” here at Gallery MAR, beginning December 29th, 2023. Follow along our instagram, facebook, and website for more details on this exciting offering from Gallery MAR.


Written by Veronica Vale